Mariam Fatima Paré was born in Kenitra Morocco. Her father, an American Marine Sergant worked at the American Embassy, and her mother was from Tangier. They came to the United States when she was a toddler.
Mariam loved to paint ever since she was little. Her passion for creating art continued through her teenage years. Later as a college-level art student, she pursued a career in Art, long before she was disabled. However, her promising future was forever changed when, at age 20, she became the victim of gun violence.
While stopped at an intersection, in the driver’s seat of a friend’s car, gun fire erupted on the adjacent sidewalk. In seconds, a single bullet passed through the door and headrest of the car Mariam was driving and struck her in the back of her neck paralyzing her instantly. The gunshot resulted in a spinal cord injury at the C5/C7 level. For the rest of her life Mariam would be quadriplegic; permanently paralyzed, unable to walk and with significant loss of function in her arms and hands. The assailant was never caught or identified.
So Mariam began a new life, living with Disability. She withstood a long period of rehabilitation; months and years of relearning to do everyday activities that she had once taken for granted. She learned to get around using a wheelchair. She learned new ways of holding things in her hands with fingers that did not move. At the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), a therapist taught Mariam to hold a pencil in her mouth to sign her name. This single lesson exposed Mariam to a new possible way of painting. Though she could no longer paint with her hands, she thought, if she could control a pencil with her mouth, then why not a paintbrush? It was soon after that, Mariam began teaching herself how to paint for the second time in her life. This time by mouth.
Mariam saw potential in her new way of painting. She was determined to pursue her love for art and so continued to develop as an artist and “mouth painter”.
Today, many years later, Mariam is well-recognized creative talent who is celebrated for her colorful portraits and multi-media works. She is now a 15 year member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. Her paintings have been exhibited worldwide as well as in notable private collections such as actors Pierce Brosnan, and Kathie Lee Gifford. Some of her major commissions include Craig H. Nielsen Rehabilitation Hospital, Omorose Cosmetics, LifeWTR, and Pepsi company.
She often tackles motifs surrounding the issues of gun violence and disability awareness. She is co-creator of Tres Fridas Project, an exhibition that re-imagines art through the disability lens. Mariam has received numerous grants and awards. She was recently awarded a 3Arts Fellowship for 2020, and continues to work in collaboration with University of Illinois (Chicago) Disability Culture Leadership Initiative.
She serves as member of the Associate Board at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab (where she once rehabilitated herself), helping to coordinate art exhibits that help raise funds for their art therapy program.
Currently Mariam works prolifically from her home studio in suburban Chicago.